GLENEAGLES, Scotland –The story of day two at the 40th Ryder Cup was the same story of the last 25 years.
The Americans played well on Saturday, but the Europeans played better, and now the U.S. finds itself trailing 10-6 and eying its eighth Ryder Cup loss in the last 10 tries.
Led by a different Englishman — Justin Rose, not Ian Poulter — the favored Europeans took control with a 3.5-.5 session win in the foursomes to go into the 12 Sunday singles matches needing only four points to retain the Cup.
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“We’ve come back from 10-6,” U.S. captain Tom Watson said, but not on the road. Two teams, Europe on the road in 2012 and the U.S. at home in 1999, have come back from a 10-6 deficit to win. The U.S. nearly climbed out of a 9.5-6.5 hole at Celtic Manor in 2010, winning seven of a possible 12 points before Graeme McDowell closed out Hunter Mahan.
“We certainly won’t be complacent,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “That’s a word we’ve used a lot this week.”
The U.S. won the morning fourballs 2.5-1.5, leaving only a 6.5-5.5 deficit. The captains left no doubt as to the seriousness of their intentions as they benched a handful of players for both sessions Saturday: Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson and off-form captain’s pick Webb Simpson for Team USA; and struggling Ryder rookie Stephen Gallacher for Europe.
Still, it all went wrong for the underdog Americans in the afternoon.
Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood put the first blue on the board, making six birdies to beat Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar 2 and 1. Neither Johnson (0-2-0) nor Kuchar (0-3-0) has managed even a half point heading into the singles. Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell crushed a flat Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker 5 and 4, who after playing 54 holes in a span of a day and a half had nothing left to give in the anchor match.
If the Americans had any hopes of maintaining contact with Europe, it needed to get points out of Match 2, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan versus Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy, and Match 3, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth against U.S. Open champions Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose.
Alas, those matches, too, went mostly Europe’s way.
Clinging to life at 1 down, Furyk and Mahan watched their hopes all but evaporate as Mahan sprayed his drive at the 293-yard, par-4 14th hole — the hole he’d eagled earlier in the day. They salvaged a par but lost the hole to go 2 down with four to play, and lost 3 and 2 to Garcia and McIlroy.
Players have been buffeted by a cold wind for most of the last two days at Gleneagles, and fatigue took a toll late Saturday, most noticeably among the Americans. Mahan’s errant drive at 14 was a tired shot and stood in contrast to his inspired play in a rousing fourball victory earlier Saturday.
Moments later Reed, after Rose and Kaymer had opened the door by bogeying the par-5 16th hole, shoved his 30-inch par putt right, giving him and Spieth a bogey, as well — their fourth in five holes. Spieth responded by hitting their tee shot to within 15 feet for birdie at the par-3 17th hole, and the putt was conceded as Rose and Kaymer made another bogey, giving the U.S. a 1 up lead with one hole to play. Then they lost that lead, too.
Visibly angry, Reed piped his drive down the 18th fairway, but the U.S. duo caught a unlucky break when Spieth’s second shot came to rest at the edge of the front-right greenside bunker, and they could only manage a par as the Europeans got up and down from the same bunker to salvage the half point.
Rose, of course, holed the birdie putt for Europe. With Poulter off his game at Gleneagles, Rose has earned 3.5 of a possible 4 points so far.
The U.S. served notice in the morning four ball matches that it would not go down without a fight, making scads of birdies in winning the session 2.5 to 1.5. Furyk and Mahan shot a best ball score of 9 under to dust Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood 4 and 3. Reed and Spieth beat Thomas Bjorn and Kaymer 5 and 3. And in the anchor match, Fowler and Walker scratched out a half point against McIlroy and Poulter.
Fowler came up big for the U.S., holing a crucial bunker shot at 10, changing the momentum of the match and keeping them only 1 down to set up a rollercoaster ride on the last eight holes. He rolled in a nerve-jangling, roughly 10-foot putt to save par at 17 and each team birdied the par-5 18th for the halve — the third halved match in two days for the Americans.
Only in the first match, which broke a Ryder Cup record with 21 birdies, was Europe in control, as red-hot Rose and Henrik Stenson clipped Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson 3 and 2. “Of course we would have birdied 17 and 18, as well, if we had a chance,” Stenson quipped.
“We played great,” said Bubba Watson, who finally showed signs of life before sitting in the afternoon. “They just played a lot better.”
It’s a familiar story for the Americans.
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